The Wokingham Children's Book Festival

I met a boy and a bear while signing books at the Wokingham Children's Book Fest.
Thanks to Let Them Eat Books for the photo!

I presented Is It a Mermaid session at last weekend's Wokingham Children's Book Festival.

Sadly, I don't usually get to run into author friends appearing at the same festivals and this one had quite a few of on the programme – Fiona Barker, Cath Howe, Tony Bradman, Chitra Soundar, Layn Marlow and others. But they were performing at other times. We were like ships that passed in the night.

I did run into this lot though as I was leaving in my big red coat:

Louie Stowell (The Dragon in the Library), Jenny MacLachlan (The Land of Roar), Lane Marlow (You Make Me Smile) and me!

Pleased to meet organizer Elizabeth McDonald. Festivals take a lot of emailing back and forth, and Elizabeth was a saint.

All authors were greeted with custom cupcakes skillfully created by Claire Groves.

... here are mine!

Cupcakes by Claire Groves

I was lucky enough to arrive on time to attend Blast Off Into the Big Beyond with poet and picture book author James Carter, whose easy delivery, with a bit of  had the smiling audience spouting lines of poetry. What a delight!
Thanks to Let Them Eat Books for this photo catching James playing his uke to a young fan.

I also got to meet bearded A. F. Harrold for the first time – A is for Ashley. Known for his novels like The Imaginary, illustrated by Emily Gravett. At this festival, he was featuring on the younger stream of events, talking about his poetry rather than his novels. I realised very quickly that his poetry readings would make brilliant videos – here's a sample from my Instagram feed:

I love doing my Mermaid act because it's a chance for me to draw and I love drawing! The festival provided the children with clipboards and paper so the children could draw as I performed. At the end, a wee girl came up to me with this picture!

Photo: Wokingham Children's Book Festival

Photo: Wokingham Children's Book Festival

Huge congratulations to the Wokingham Festival team who made everything ran like clockwork, at the same time making sure we authors had a great time!

It was my last festival of the author season and I have to confess, I am looking forward to some downtime. Except of course I'm speaking at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference on the first weekend of November. It's what it says on the tin, for writers and illustrators of children's books. Indeed, Wokingham's Elizabeth McDonald will be there to talk about what librarians want from school visits!  I'm doing a day of demonstrating online tools, gadgets and promotion and platform-building techniques for authors.

See you there?

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Undiscovered Voices Honorary Chair

Today, it was announced that I am Honorary Chair for this year's Undiscovered Voices anthology for 2020. 
If you haven't heard of it, the UV was a competition for aspiring children's authors launched by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators way back in 2006. It was the brainchild of my SCBWI pals Sara Grant and Sara O'Connor which has so far transformed the lives of many, many writers, including me. You can read the story of Undiscovered Voices here.
What's amazing is the whole thing is volunteer run. Volunteers organise the competition, recruit agents and publishers to participate, all under the sponsorship of Working Partners, the book packagers.
I won a place in the first anthology in 2008. After many years of rejection, it opened the door to becoming an author, and I will always be grateful. I am grateful to be asked to be Honorary Chair, but I also feel slightly like a fraud. I still feel like one of the aspiring.
I remember getting the phone call congratulating me on getting into the anthology. I was thrilled, wracked with doubt, floating with joy, all at the same time.
Though, today, my thoughts are also with those who didn't make it into the anthology. It has probably been a tough day ... so difficult to celebrate a friend on the list when your own dreams have been dashed.
Rejection and disappointment cast such long shadows. I remember how disabling it was to be told my story was "not right" for a list, or that an agent was "not that passionate" about my work. It really sucked. So ... guys, gnash those teeth, shed a tear, it sucks not to be on the longlist.
But you know what? You've done the two most valuable things an aspiring author can do:

1. Write your story.
2. Send it in.

Which took courage and self belief. The stuff it takes to become an author.

So BRAVO, to all Undiscovered Voices, longlisted or not. This is a worthy stepping stone on the long and rocky journey to publication. I wish you all courage and joy as you take the next steps.

May the best stories find you.

This piece might look familiar, if you follow me on Twitter. I am slowly reproducing my Twitter threads on my blog in the name of keeping a proper record. 

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The Carnegie Greenaway Twitter Takeover

So I took part in the #CKG19 Twitter Takeover today.Man, that was hard even with Tweetdeck. So here are my answers carefully organised for you.

This piece might look familiar, if you follow me on Twitter. I am slowly reproducing my Twitter threads on my blog in the name of keeping a proper record. 

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